March 12, 2015

New Electronic Gizmos to Improve Exercise and Meditation

The 2015 Consumer Electronics Show unveiled the latest stuff in Las Vegas earlier this year.

Michael Gorman, editor-in-chief of Engadget magazine, identified two particularly big trends:
  • For fitness: clothing loaded with sensors, and
  • For meditation: EEG headbands.

It’s unlikely I’ll be using Amazon “one click” (my favorite way to shop) for any of the exercise-related sensor-laden clothing. My biking days are over, and my exercycle is sitting behind me now waiting for the one or two times a month I use it.

Meditation Headbands
But those headbands for meditation? I might eventually take the plunge (especially because I'm a neophiliac), even though my own idiosyncratic meditation routine works very well for me, and I wouldn’t want to mess it up. It’s become a key part of my joy of quiet hour, a favorite time of day.

We've known for a long time that meditation is good for mind and body. Studies have confirmed its ability to reduce blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and pain. We’ve also learned that meditation can improve balance, stress management skills, and sleep.

So... what are these new headbands, and what do they do?

EEG headbands use electricity-sensing leads to monitor brain waves to help calm the wearer. The technology isn’t new; sleep specialists, lab scientists, and brain researchers have been using it for a long time. Now, it’s available to everyone.

Muse is a $299 headband loaded with sensors. Working over Bluetooth with an app called Calm, it provides real-time feedback. According to the manufacturer, it helps guide the wearer more deeply into a self-reflective state and reduces distractions.

NeuroSky's $79 MindWave headset works with a variety of third-party apps, designed to enable the wearer to use her brain waves to play games, control real-world devices, and meditate more effectively. Its programs claim they can help ease anxiety, control symptoms of ADHD, and even reduce symptoms of certain brain-related stomach disorders like irritable bowel syndrome.

Engadget’s Gorman seems bullish on the headbands: "Consumer EEG headbands are in their early days, but as the software improves and users get better acquainted with the technology, I believe it will appeal and have greater utility for a wider market."

Sensor-Laden Clothing to Track Exercise
Athos now markets a sweat-wicking gym shirt with 14 muscle-movement sensors, two heart rate sensors, and two breathing sensors.

Designed to help train the right muscles more efficiently and avoid injury, the sensors sync over Bluetooth with the wearer’s mobile device.

Jeremy Kaplan, a writer for the tech website “Digital Trends,” tried the product and wrote: "I was only using light weights, but it was easy to see which muscles were working hardest, and to correct my form when I was relying too heavily on one side of my body or falling back on helper muscles."

Sensoria markets a $200 “Smart Sock,” which includes two pairs of sensor socks and the connected anklet. With features that help track running form, activity level, step counts, and distance, the product is designed to help the wearer improve how he runs and – again -- to prevent injuries.

Atlanta-based fitness trainer Robert Dothard thinks these devices can keep people motivated, but acknowledges they’re only useful if people continue to use them. "I always tell clients the best device is the one you're going to use," he said.

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I've written often about the emerging role of electronics in the realm of health and wellness. Here are a few of those posts:

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A recent article in WebMD -- "Wireless Medicine" -- was the key source for information in this post. 

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